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Recreation of the lighting of a painting

Updated: Jul 9, 2020

A group of friends and I decided to challenge ourselves and our photography skills in the studio. We decided to try to recreate the lighting of a painting. This is a complicated task because the light in a painting is a creation of the painter, therefore it may not be possible in the "real world".

We chose the painting Davide con la testa di Golia (David with Goliat's head) by the baroque italian painter Caravaggio from 1609-1610. The reason we chose this one in particular is because we would be able to recreate the costumes. Also, the black background would be less problematic to recreate.

Another motive we had to chose this painting was the added challenge of the floating decapitated head. We thought it would be an interesting asset that would make the final photograph more intriguing.

As for the lighting in this painting, as it was done in the 1600s, we thought that, due to it's warmness, it must correspond to candles. Therefore it's artificial light. It uses the candles to bring out the elements that are of interest, whilst leaving the rest in the dark. With this, the artist Caravaggio achieves in creating a huge contrast, iluminating the main character David and adding this way a very dramatic feeling and increasing the tradgedy of the moment.

To carry out this photograph we had at our disposal:

  • A black background

  • A ceiling spotlight of 1000W at the right hand side at it's full power.

  • A diffuser in front of the warm spotlight.

  • A screen of black material infront of the diffuser.

  • A LED spotlight with a focal mirror, 5600K, at 15% of its power, with a blue filter. It was in the right diagonal in front of the models.

  • A reversed reflector on the right-hand side to cover the body of the decapitated head.

  • A reflector on the left-hand side, perpendicular to the models.

  • A camera.

  • A tripod.

The settings of the camera in the final photograph are:

  • Speed: 1/40

  • Aperture: f1.8

  • ISO: 200

  • White balance: tungsten

We were quite proud of the final result, we feel we managed to capture the essence of the painting.

Some photographs of us recreating the painting in the studio:

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